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Last Updated: Tuesday, 4 April 2006, 21:53 GMT 22:53 UK
Q&A: Solomon Islands vote
Prime Minister Allan Kemakeza (left)
Prime Minister Kemakeza's party won the 2001 poll

Solomon Islanders go to the polls on Wednesday to vote in the first general election since foreign peacekeepers went in to restore order in 2003 after years of clashes with militants from Malaita island.

What is the electoral system?

Since independence from Britain in 1978, the Solomon Islands have been a multi-party democracy. The single-chamber parliament is elected every five years, and the 50 seats are chosen from single-member constituencies. Parliament chooses the prime minister.

A total of 453 candidates - including 24 women - are competing for the support of the 342,119 voters.

Around 61,000 more voters have registered for this ballot compared with the 2001 poll.

What was the state of the parties in the outgoing parliament?

In the previous election in 2001, Prime Minister Sir Allan Kemakeza's People's Alliance Party won 20 seats, followed by the Association of Independent Members with 13 seats and the Liberal Party-led Alliance for Change with 12.

Liberal leader and former Prime Minister Bartholomew Ulufa'alu is the current leader of the opposition.

Two other parties made it into the outgoing parliament: the People's Progressive Party with three seats and the Labour Party with one.

What are the election issues?

The People's Alliance Party is campaigning on Sir Allan Kemakeza's record, saying that his invitation to the peacekeepers saved the country from chaos and allowed rebuilding to begin.

The leading opposition Liberal Party is focusing on economic development.

The Association of Independent Members, led by Thomas Chan, is campaigning for reconciliation between the Malaitans and the inhabitants of the main island, Guadalcanal.

Former Prime Minister Manasseh Sogavare, previously leader of the People's Progressive Party, is now leading the Social Credit Party into the elections. He has accused the government of failing to deal with underlying issues of communal tension and economic underdevelopment.

The Labour Party, led by Joses Tuhanuku, is campaigning on an anti-corruption ticket, and has complained about foreign influence on Solomon politics.

What other parties are contesting the election?

The United Party is led by former Prime Minister Sir Peter Kenilorea, who is also the speaker of parliament and chairman of the Electoral Commission. Its manifesto concentrates on the need for economic development.

The Solomon First Party will contest 21 seats on a programme of rural decentralization, and the Solomon Islands Party for Rural Advancement will stand in 30 seats on a similar platform.

The LAFARI party stresses the role played by tribal chiefs in society.

The Solomon Islands Democratic Party is campaigning on a programme of breaking aid dependency and developing self-reliance and foreign investment.

The National Party of former Prime Minister Francis Billy Hilly, the Christian Alliance Solomon Islands and the One Nation party are also standing.

Q: Are there any international observers?

Over 40 observers from Australia, New Zealand, Japan, US, and the Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat, in addition to 80 local observers, will monitor the poll.

Q: How soon will the results be known?

Results from most seats are expected to be announced by the following night, but others could take three days to count.

What happens next?

Party political alliances are fluid in the Solomon Islands, and it is difficult to predict parliamentary configurations.

The smaller parties are however unlikely to challenge the dominance of the People's Alliance, Liberal and Association of Independent Members parties.

BBC Monitoring selects and translates news from radio, television, press, news agencies and the internet from 150 countries in more than 70 languages. It is based in Caversham, UK, and has several bureaux abroad.

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